Had the pleasure of listening to Nick Earls' thoughts at Brisbane's 'A Rock & Roll Writers Festival'. He was funny and honest. I rather enjoyed his panel sessions. Thought I should get started on the Brisbane novelist's series of five stories in 'Wisdom Tree: Five Novellas' (2016). (Reviews here, here and here.)
Titled 'Gotham', 'Venice', 'Vancouver', 'Juneau' and 'Noho', these five stories look at five male protagonists and their families, and the complicated relationships within. The protagonists' ages spanned from four to thirty-forty-something and aged parents at seventy-something. It examines the sacrifices they make, or otherwise. Very well written.
Tough to pick a favorite. 'Gotham' is all about New York City, sick children, absent fathers, rap and hip-hop culture and money, and hang-ups. 'Vancouver' looks at the bond between a ex-football player, now-professor and a boy, now grown adult who has become a writer. It traces their relationship from Australia to Bellingham in Washington State, USA. 'Juneau' tugs at your heartstrings- of a typical stoic and seemingly cold relationship between a father and his son, and the father's search for an uncle Thomas Chandler who had disappeared in Juneau, Alaska in the 1800s. The old man requested the company of his son to go on a cruise to Alaska to seek closure. 'Noho' explores the ties of a family shuttling between Brisbane, Australia and Los Angeles, USA so that the twelve-year-old daughter with natural blonde hair could get a shot at Hollywood stardom. It tells us how the son feels about it- strangely resigned, making the best of it rather than feeling resentful that all the attention is on his sister.
If I have to pick an extract, it'd be from 'Venice'. It looks at the budding bond between thirty-two-year-old Ryan and his four-year-old nephew Harrison. He's bunking in with his talented and recognized artist sister Natalie and dentist brother-in-law Phil and nephew at their lovely home in Brisbane. He's been laid off from his Sydney job. It has been four weeks and counting. He takes over caregiving duties of Harrison while Phil is mad busy at the clinic and Natalie is pitching projects and creating art when she's selected to represent the country in the Venice Biennale. He also takes care of the family's dinner and general cleaning duties.
'So what do you do?' I imagine that line coming my way from one guest after another, and invent a range of answers that are defiant or evasive or untrue.
But the guests find each other, not me. They hug, air kiss, search for glasses, search for more champagne, laugh like donkeys, grind chips into the rug and almost all show me their backs. They have their people here. This is room that knows precisely how it works, with or without me. I crossed it with a stomach not so long ago. No one is going to ask what I do.
I put my glass down, pick up an empty bowl and sweep the debris on the coffee table into it—olive pits, a crushed cracker or two, crumpled foil from a champagne bottle.